Sunday, March 30, 2008

RSVP On the Road: Lewiston Part I

Attendees: Pit, Lyn, Andre, L.L., Al, and...

Attendees (Cont.): Belle, Gop, Peach, Beet, and...

Attendees: Pulum, Dolly, Bean, Sheik, Curl-y, & J.F.
Drinker's Choice (I missed Peanut, so poured myself a vodka martini)

Shrimp cocktail, baked brie

Main Course:
Filet of Beef, Roasted Rosemary Potatoes, Caesar Salad, and Peas

Princess Cake, Key Lime Pie, and Custard Puffs

While Peanut stayed in D.C. studying (except when Cliff, George, and Sparkles took him out for dinner Saturday night), I drove up to my hometown of Lewiston, N.Y. with Sheik, Dolly, and Bean to spend the weekend with my parents (Pit and L.L.) and my other brother and his family (Gop, Peach, Belle, and Beet). Since the 10 of us weren't enough, my mother of course invited her cousin Lyn, Lyn's husband Al, and son Andre, for dinner, and Pulum, Curl-y, and J.F. joined us for a very special dessert.

Even though Peanut wasn't there, I think I was able to create a pretty nice ambiance.

Simple, but classic.

The topping is a caramel, cranberry, and walnut mixture that was store-bought, but delicious. I guess you can cut corners every now and then.

I prefer to cook my filets in a 500-degree oven, but the kitchen was getting smoky and I had to compromise. Still, it looks perfect.

The Canadian part of my heritage enjoys their steaks well done. L.L. and I prepared a separate filet for them.

Who eats steak without potatoes?

Belle turns 3 next Saturday, so we celebrated early with a Princess Cake, which was angel food cake that L.L. trimmed, Dolly "constructed", and I decorated! Not quite as fancy as what Rose can create in Chicago over at Simran Bakehouse, but we did pretty good!

And it was a double birthday, since my brother Gop's birthday is tomorrow! We made his favorite: Key Lime Pie.

And to accommodate those who didn't want either, we had Dicamillo's custard puffs on standby (if you aren't from Niagara Falls and haven't had baked goods from DiCamillo's, you just don't know what you are missing).

A great visit home, and I'm already missing Belle, Beet, and Bean, but I am glad to be home again with Peanut (and away from the snow)!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Two in Twenty-Four: Family Easter

Attendees: Jalal, Chime, Lucy, Little Bird, 3-B, Sheik, Bean, Dolly, & Peanut
Coffee, Orange Juice, and Mimosas

Main Course: Herb-baked eggs, chocolate chip coffee cake, hash browns, fruit salad
Frozen key lime pie

So, what's the best thing to do the morning after a dinner party? Invite ten people over for Easter brunch the next morning! That's right: a back-to-back dinner party/brunch combo- 2 parties in 24 hours! Not only are 3-B and I close, but so are our families. So when 3-B invited her brother and his family over, I had to extend the invitation to Sheik and Dolly. But secretly, it was all a ploy for me to see BEAN!

I let Little Bird hold her for a few seconds.

It was Easter, so I decided to use the Easter baskets I made for Bean and Jalal as part of the table decor (which is totally NOT a tablescape). By the time I took this pic, however, Jalal had already gotten to his basket. The one on the table is the one for Bean.

On to the food! The Contessa's herb-baked eggs are perhaps the easiest eggs to prepare for a brunch, and they are SO GOOD!

We tried to find a really good blueberry muffin recipe but had no luck (do you have a good one? Send it to me PLEASE! And make sure it has that sugar crusting on top!). Anyway, 3-B made this totally decadent coffee cake with chocolate chips instead.

Enjoyed by Chime and Jalal (where do you think Chime and Lucy went to college?).

Little Bird was in charge of the fruit salad. I think it looks beautiful.

So, even though the coffee cake had chocolate chips in it, I still had to make some kind of dessert. Cindy was in the Keys a few weeks back and told me she would buy me some key limes. Well, I've been thinking about (and waiting for!) those key limes ever since, so I broke out an old favorite: frozen key lime pie (which are actually not made with key limes).


Little Bird Has Landed!

Lisa, 3-B, Little Bird, Noncommittal Nancy, Peanut
Drinker's Choice! (some wine, some vodka tonics, and some vodka martinis)
Stuffed Mushrooms
Main Course:
Chicken cordon bleu, onion tart, pear & endive salad (with crumbled blue cheese & walnuts), and roasted tomatoes
Chocolate Souffles (yeah, you read correctly).

Little Bird flew south from Brooklyn on Friday to see 3-B (and me!) in DC. On Friday, we took her out to a night on the Hill and perhaps partied a bit too hard. Nonetheless, 3-B and I were going to make a meal in her honor that she would never forget. Lisa, who went to high school with 3-B, joined in the festivities and we were finally able to get Noncomittal Nancy to commit! Peanut made it home from the Jersey Shore (I can't wait till summer to host a dinner party on that roof deck!!!) just in time.

I had to pound chicken breasts for the chicken cordon bleu. I don't have a mallet, so I used an empty bottle of wine, which seemed very French. Oh, and the bottle of wine wasn't empty when I was ready to start pounding, so I was justified in having my "chef's glass"!

It's amazing how much you can get done when you've got a co-chef! 3-B and I worked together to create these hearty stuffed mushroom appetizers.

The pear and endive salad with crumbled bleu and walnuts (and a homemade vinaigrette) almost stole the show!

3-B and I also worked together on this one- I made and rolled out the pie crust, she made the onion tart filling. This was a strategic dinner choice that served as the entree for the vegetarians (big piece), and a side for the carnivores (small piece).

I love chicken cordon-bleu, and how pretty is this plate with the roasted cherry tomatoes!

But really, we were all excited about dessert and the promise of chocolate souffles! 3-B and I literally started clapping when we turned on the oven and saw them RISING!!!

Here they are as soon as we took them out...

A big thanks to my good friend Biagio who runs Biagio Fine Chocolates, the most amazing chocolate shop in DC ( I was at his store Saturday morning immediately after yoga, where Biagio himself helped me pick out the perfect chocolate for my souffles! They were AMAZING!!!

And since Little Bird didn't help us cook, we forced her to do the dishes. Kidding! (But she is oddly good at them!)

So, partners in crime once again. In elementary school, a teacher once nicknamed 3-B and me Tweedledee (who was probably 3-B) and Tweedledum (probably me). We pulled off an amazing dinner party and I'm really going to miss her when she heads back up to Brooklyn next weekend! But I'll get by (after all, I do have a new pair of fabulous red pants!!!).

Monday, March 17, 2008

St. Peanut Day

Attendees: Hon & Peanut
Fresh Whiskey Sours (made with Jameson)
Blini with creme fraiche and dill
Main Course:
Irish stew with Irish brown bread served with spinach salad
Stout Floats

Hon was an instrumental component of my graduate school experience. She started off as my T.A. and ended up as the only person who would grab a beer with me at 11 pm on a Tuesday night. So when she came to DC for a conference, I MADE her stay on the inflatable bed in our den and have dinner with us on Monday, which just happened to be ST. PEANUT DAY!!!!

I wore green.

So, in the last picture I was chopping up some dill to serve atop blinis, along with some creme fraiche. Hon enjoyed them.

I made Irish stew, served with some stout and store-bought brown bread. I think that the lack of Irish restaurants in the world is probably due to the fact that Irish food lacks an essential component- namely, taste.

But I did learn a new dinner party trick- get your guests to toss your salad.

Stout flouts start with a tablespoon of stout syrup, which is essentially simple syrup made with stout (e.g., Guinness) as opposed to water. Add one scoop of vanilla, one scoop of chocolate, and then another bottle of stout and you've got yourself a tasty Irish dessert.

That even got Peanut's St. Peanut Day approval!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Ode to Ina

Attendees: Peanut, 3-B, & Cliff
Everyone was fine with wine (well, everyone except for Peanut)
Main Course:
Pissaladiere, fennel & orange salad
Apple crisp with ice cream

Like most Sundays, I woke up today at 10 am (which was really 9 am with daylight savings) to watch a little Barefoot Contessa. Ina really inspired me today with the fennel and orange salad- I HAD to try it. We had planned to get together with Cliff since George was out of town, so I invited him over for an impromptu dinner party featuring a bunch of Ina's recipes that I had yet to try.
With a dinner like this, all I really wanted was glass of wine. But since it was a Sunday, Peanut made himself his favorite- Grey Goose martini with a twist, straight up.

Pissaladiere is essentially a rectangular pizza without tomato sauce, I guess. I actually made the dough, too. The one on the left is covered with ~2lbs of sauteed onions... it was supposed to be made with anchovies and olives, also, but I thought that was chancing it. The one on the right is tomato, mozzarella, and basil, with shredded white cheddar.
But THIS was what it was all about. Oranges and fennel that 3-B julienned with some baby arugula and a lemon vinaigrette. So simple, so good.
I initially thought it would be simple to make Peaches in Sauternes, but regardless of where they are grown, peaches don't seem to be in season. So we'll save that dessert, and the Sauternes, for the future. I didn't have much time to think of an alternative, but figured apple crisp would do the trick.
And with some Breyers Vanilla, how could you really go wrong?

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Tuesday Fiesta

Attendees: Peanut & 3-B (Noncommittal Nancy was invited- we're still waiting to hear from her)
Cocktail: REAL margaritas (and when those were done, Coronas)
Appetizer: Chips & Chile Con Queso
Main Course: Tofu Fajitas
Dessert: Girl Scout Cookies!

What better way to celebrate making it through another Tuesday than with a fiesta! 3-B prepared most of the meal, though I took care of the margaritas.... and dessert.

A fiesta isn't really a fiesta without real margaritas. We made these with freshly squeezed lime juice, a splash of freshly squeezed lemon juice, triple sec, and (of course) TEQUILA!
3-B and I collaborated on some homemade guacamole (we like it CHUNKY, not MUSHY)...

... and she took care of the salsa while I showered after returning from the gym. OMG- 3-B joined the JCC today and (1) got a 50% discount because she works at an organization that serves the Jewish population; and (2) indicated she was Muslim on her application form. God bless America (and pour me another margarita PRONTO!)

Peanut did 3 things: (1) drink margaritas, (2) heat the tortillas in the microwave, and (3) some of the dishes (not pictured).
This is the "meat" of 3-B's tofu fajitas. She taught me the correct way to marinate and fry tofu, mixed with onion and peppers.
But by the time we were ready for dessert, we realized that we all should be asleep! So we went to bed, each with our favorite girl scout cookie in hand. A prize to anyone who can tell me each of our favorites!